Date of Award

2002

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Education

Program

Educational Leadership PhD

First Advisor

James A. Tucker

Second Advisor

Hinsdale Bernard

Third Advisor

Carleton Swafford

Abstract

Problem. Increasing scientific evidence reveals that this planet is in serious environmental jeopardy. Since 1977, when an international group of K-12 educators met in the USSR and established goals for teaching environmental education worldwide, many schools have endeavored to fulfill these goals through the use of various curricula and teaching strategies. Although some progress has been made, most K-12 public schools have not done enough to meet the demands of environmental problems. In 1996, my co-teacher and I designed and implemented an environmental project, called Mission Environment, that we hoped would help our students develop long-term positive environmental attitudes and behaviors.

Purpose. This study is an attempt to discover how effective the Mission Environment project (ME) was in contributing to long-term, positive environmental attitudes and behaviors among the participating students.

Methodology. The study used quantitative and qualitative methods. Data were collected by surveying the members of a high-school senior class to determine their current environmental attitudes, behavior, affect, and knowledge. Of the 71 students surveyed, 28 indicated that they had been ME participants during their eighth-grade year (1996-97). The survey data were analyzed using the students' independent samples t test and chi square.

Additionally, through student interviews, the study investigated the hypothesis that the teaching methods used during the course of the project contributed to producing these long-term effects. As a result of reflective interviews about the ME project and data from the literature review, a model has been created for a middle-school environmental education project in the form of an Innovation Configuration. This model is presented as part of the results of this study.

Findings and Conclusions. The results of the statistical analysis of the environmental survey data showed statistically significant differences between the ME participants and the non-participants. The ME participants reported more positive environmental attitudes, behavior, and affect than the non-participants. However, there was no statistically significant difference between the two groups of students in environmental knowledge. From these findings, it could be conjectured that the possession of knowledge about the environment is not necessarily an indicator of positive conservation behavior. This conclusion is consistent with the findings of several researchers who suggest that environmentally relevant behaviors do not naturally evolve from knowledge, but appear to be the result of knowledge combined with the application of action strategy skills.

Additionally, the student interviews seemed to suggest that the students acquired other positive benefits from the project. The study highlighted the importance of environmental education projects like ME, which integrate experiential, service-learning opportunities.

Subject Area

Environmental education--Evaluation

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